Camels give President Obama's Alzheimer's plan a lift

October 1, 2012

President Obama's national plan to fight Alzheimer's disease just got a lift thanks to a team of international researchers whose recent discovery may lead to enhanced imaging of and improved drug delivery to the brain. A research report appearing in The FASEB Journal, describes an entirely new class of antibody discovered in camelids (camels, dromedaries, llamas, and alpacas) that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, diffuse into brain tissue, and reach specific targets. Having such antibodies, which are naturally available, may be part of a "game changer" in the outcomes for people with brain diseases that are poorly diagnosed and treated, at best, using today's tools.

"This basic biological investigation opens new pathways toward innovative therapeutic solutions for intractable diseases such as Alzheimer's disease or ," said Pierre Lafaye, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Institut Pasteur, PF: Production de Protéines Recombinantes et d'Anticorps –Proteopole in Paris, France. "The importance of this study is the hope that this novel approach may be a useful tool in crossing the for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes," added Babbette Weksler, MD, Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, another author of the study and editorial board member of The FASEB Journal.

Lafaye and colleagues studied alpacas, a member of the camelid family, and discovered an antibody naturally able to cross the blood brain barrier without chemical modification. Then, additional research showed that after these antibodies entered the brain successfully, they diffused into the to reach a target, which in this study was astrocytes. This study shows, for the first time, an antibody penetrated into the brain in vivo, under normal physiological conditions. In addition to the obvious clinical applications of this finding, it opens the doors to new research involving the body's systems for recognizing self v. "nonself."

"Camels may be most famous for helping people travel to the outermost reaches of the desert, but soon they could be also known for helping us reach the innermost parts of our brains," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The . "It appears that these prized animals are far more capable of helping get to hard-to-reach places than we ever could have imagined."

Explore further: Researchers find new way to use antibodies to carry drugs across the blood-brain barrier

More information: Tengfei Li, Jean-Pierre Bourgeois, Susanna Celli, Fabienne Glacial, Anne-Marie Le Sourd, Salah Mecheri, Babette Weksler, Ignacio Romero, Pierre-Olivier Couraud, François Rougeon, and Pierre Lafaye. Cell-penetrating anti-GFAP VHH and corresponding fluorescent fusion protein VHH-GFP spontaneously cross the blood-brain barrier and specifically recognize astrocytes: application to brain imaging. FASEB J October 2012, 26:3969-3979; doi:10.1096/fj.11-201384

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Artificial beta cells

December 8, 2016

Researchers led by ETH Professor Martin Fussenegger at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) in Basel have produced artificial beta cells using a straightforward engineering approach.

Key regulator of bone development identified

December 8, 2016

Loss of a key protein leads to defects in skeletal development including reduced bone density and a shortening of the fingers and toes—a condition known as brachydactyly. The discovery was made by researchers at Penn State ...

Researchers question lifelong immunity to toxoplasmosis

December 8, 2016

Medical students are taught that once infected with Toxoplasma gondii—the "cat parasite"—then you're protected from reinfection for the rest of your life. This dogma should be questioned, argue researchers in an Opinion ...

TET proteins drive early neurogenesis

December 7, 2016

The fate of stem cells is determined by series of choices that sequentially narrow their available options until stem cells' offspring have found their station and purpose in the body. Their decisions are guided in part by ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.